Review: Drox Operative: Invasion of the Ancients

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Game: Drox Operative: Invasion of the Ancients
Price: $19.95 (main game, + $10 for Invasion of the Ancients)
System(s): Windows (Also available for Mac)
Release Date: November, 2013
Publisher (Developer): Soldak Entertainment
ESRB Rating: (Everyone 10+, most likely)

Drox Operative is everything an indie game is supposed to be: different and fun. “Mainstream” games are a little hit and miss on the fun, and avoid “different” like the plague. When I review a mainstream game, it takes me all of five seconds to realize “Oh, this game is just like…” some other popular title. Drox Operative is like nothing else, being a “space spy simulator”, for lack of an established genre. Drox is already a good game, but the Invasion of the Ancients expansion fills in a few cracks, managing to make it just a bit better.

It’s probably best just to read the review of the basic Drox Operative, but in brief: you’re a Drox Operative, a member of an ancient race of stellar manipulators, and captain of a ship in an undiscovered system. Your mission is to win over the system, by diplomacy, violence, economics, or heroism (regrettably, you can’t combine these), and your price for doing so is to move on to another system. The game defies a genre description, but is kinda-sorta like a Diablo in space. Kinda.

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Pick a Race

Drox lets you play as one of 19 races; that’s plenty, so it’s forgivable that only one of those races comes from the expansion. The new race, Scavengers, have the ability to quickly self-repair their ships. It’s not quite as flashy as other racial abilities, but to get any level of distinctiveness when you have this many races is an accomplishment.

The expansion also adds a number of ancient races (hence the name)…these guys hate you, and while they won’t declare war right away, it really is just a matter of time. While getting plunged into war regularly is inconvenient, if the basic game had any weakness, it was having a far too generous diplomatic system, one where you could easily have war or peace depending on your needs.

The Drox, your bosses, also make a bigger appearance in the expansion. While before they gave some sub-missions, now they give mandatory missions, which you must complete in order to win a system.

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Space has more stuff

Overall, the expansion adds more stuff to the what was already a game with plenty of variety. One of the bigger highlights is the presence of space stations, which take considerable effort to destroy (if you’re into that sort of thing). Ship components are also easier to modify; many races will do it for a fee, and components sometimes have sockets (much like gems in fantasy themed games) that allow further customization.

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Explosions Ahead

I detect a touch of sequel-itis here, as Invasion of the Ancients does seem to be a more difficult game, with many more intense space battles and narrow escapes for my hapless Drox spaceship. It’s not a big deal, because getting destroyed isn’t a huge setback (the whole ship, including crew and components, is cloned), and when you go to the next system, you influence the difficulty level. While mostly by “set” I mostly mean “make it even harder”, you can dial it down a notch, which is about all it takes to make the next system a bit easier to beat…and you can crank it up again once you think you’ve got the right ship configuration.

Drox Operative was already a great game, well worth the investment for gamers with tastes refined enough to appreciate an indie design philosophy. Invasion of the Ancients doesn’t screw anything up, and adds a little, which about all you can do when start with something that was already about as good as it can be.

Product Page [soldak]

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